It’s all about the Cozy Mystery

Can you believe this weekend is Labor Day weekend, where did the summer go?
This is the time when most people start to plan for their fall/winter season. Down here in the South, the winter season is crucial because it is our tourist season. And the tourist will want to visit the beaches, and in their beach-bags will be books; light beach reads. This means more books will be purchased!

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I’ve thought about my fall/winter objectives as well. I decided my books are going to be more consolidated into one generic. And the genre is COZY MYSTERIES. It’s what I love to write, what I love to read; it’s even what I love to watch on TV. So, why not stick with what I love?
Because I’m consolidating and aiming more towards cozy mysteries, my blog is going to   have one post per month dedicated strictly to cozy mysteries. I’ll be talking about the genre, some authors, the type of settings, the characters and doing a few book reviews. My regular blog posts will continue the other three weeks of the month , but I thought it might be fun to change up.

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What is a Cozy Mystery?
Think of the TV series Murder She Wrote. This is one of the best examples of a cozy mystery. The series has all the elements found in a cozy; a small quaint town, amateur sleuth, and a cast of characters the reader can get to know. Sometimes the main character is a bit nosy, or sometimes they are in the right place at the right time. But the main character always is compelled to investigate a crime (usually a murder) and put the wrong to right.

One of the first writers of cozy mysteries was Dame Agatha Christie. Her cozy mysteries that started it all was the Miss Marple series. Miss Marple was a elderly lady, wise about human nature. And she sure knew how to solve a mystery. Dame Agatha was a master at leaving false clues, red herrings, and wonderful characters that you loved. She could paint a picture with her scenes, pulling you into the mystery and then leaving you with unexpected results.

Cozy mysteries today are tamer, often glossing over the evil of the crime; becoming a bit sweeter, than the mysteries of Agatha Christie. There is usually no swearing, no gore, and any sex happens behind closed doors. Good always wins, and the mysteries are always solved. Whether it’s a series, are not, you are never left hanging, wondering what really happened.

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Sounds simple right? Now try writing one!
Next month I will start going over a few details involved when writing a cozy mystery and review a couple of books I’ve really enjoyed.
Let me know what you think cozy mysteries and share some of your favorite books!

Victoria LK Williams
Writing Cozy Mysteries with a Tropical Twist.

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Go ahead-walk away!

Hey-You!

Sometimes you need to stand up, push the chair in and walk away from the desk!

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We all work hard, there is no denying this, but at some point the hard work turns in to that phase where you feel like the little mouse on the wheel, running in circles and not getting anywhere. And sometimes, it’s hard to see when you need to take a break from the writing.

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Whether it’s a ten-minute break, or a long weekend, or a real vacation; you need to take time to recharge.
“Oh, no I can’t do that! I’m on a deadline.” (or something to that effect) Runs through your head and you dig in your heels, pulling the keyboard closer, like a security blanket. But even a child has to give up the blanket so it can be washed. Letting go will be equal to washing of a blanket.
Once all the clutter and tangled thoughts are allowed to settle down, it’s much easier to look at them and decide what you need to keep and what should be let go. Walk away and let your ideas slow down. The brilliant idea you had months ago isn’t working, so put it aside until the time is right. Come back and look at it again with a fresh perspective.
I think we get trapped in our writing environment and miss out on so much. How can you write about something when you’re shut in an office for hours, only seeing the screen in front of you? Where are you getting your inspiration from? I don’t mean inspiration for the big picture, but for the details. How do you know what the sound of the wind in the trees, the feel of sunlight on your skin, the smells of cut grass are like if you don’t take a second and actually put yourself in the middle of these things? And it is the little details like this that make your story come alive for the reader.

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By freeing our mind, we are opening it up to the possibilities of new ideas and solutions. That clue you were looking for? Suddenly it’s crystal clear. The conversation you were trying to write, but it was coming off stilted? Now it feels as if your characters are in the room with you talking. The little details are easier to spot and you may not feel so overwhelmed.
I had to be reminded of this just this week. Moaning and groaning, I gave in and went on a day trip with my husband. We visited an old favorite place, enjoying the peaceful walks through the gardens, had a wonderful dinner and talked. And as we talked and laughed, teasing and joking about different things, the ideas began to form. By the time we got home that night, I had the plot for two new books.
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The added bonus; I was able to talk with my husband about the ideas, and he had some of his own. They were jokes at first, but as the ideas nestled into my brain, I was caught up in the possibilities. Now they are written down for future development.
As you can see, taking a break worked out very well for me. And most authors that I talk to agree with me.

Sometimes you need to turn off the computer and let the little grey cells do their thing.

Victoria LK Williams

Magic or Stress?

 

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There’s a certain magic in the air when you get ready to start a new project.

Ideas are popping, seemingly out of nowhere. Your thoughts are racing in all different directions and sometimes it’s hard to rein them in for sorting. This is an exciting time for anyone about to begin something new, but especially for an author. We’re taking a simple thought, expanding and creating, until we have a story to tell.
Whether it be a romance, mystery, fantasy, thriller, or anything else; it’s something we want to create and share.
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Sometimes it’s a continuation of an old idea. For example, continuing a series, writing a sequel, or finishing a trilogy. With these type of books, we’re merely continuing an old idea. or expanding on it, making it better each time we write the next. We may or may not produce a complete outline for all the books. Whether or not we have the outline; our thoughts will continue, and ideas will spring forth.
But there’s a side to the creativity which is fearful as well. This is overwhelmingly evident for me when I start a new series. I’m leaving the comfort of the characters already created, the settings I’ve already got down pat in my head, and the storyline. But there are times when you know it’s necessary to move on. And when you move on, fear begins.
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Will my readers like my idea for the series? When do they fall in love with my characters as I do? Would I want to visit the settings created on the pages? Or will the whole thing just be a flop!
But when I start a new series, I trust my ideas and I move forward, squashing down the fear in my eagerness to get my ideas onto paper.
Not every idea will work out, or make it into a story. But once I find the idea I can’t forget, that haunts me during the day, makes me wake up at night and has me talking about it to my husband, then I know I’m ready to put the idea into book form.
I think this is why I have several series going at once. Not every idea will fit a certain series, so I create another. And with each creation, there’s an elevated level of excitement that needs to be toned down, so the words come out and make sense.

 
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Being a writer is more than just putting words on a page. It’s also about juggling ideas and letting them form with questions.
And knowing which ones to pursue.

Victoria LK Williams

A little Insight

Do you see me?
I think every author puts a bit of themselves somewhere in their story. Something as simple as a location you’ve been, to a favorite object, an irritating habit or secret longing. These things seem to find their way into the storyline.
Even fantasy worlds are based on something that the author knows or is familiar with. It could be something in your everyday life or something from your past but it’s hard not to use your personal experiences into your story.
Here, let me give you a couple examples from my writing…
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In the Citrus Beach Mysteries it’s obvious. Megan the main character is heavy into gardening, creating private landscape designs for clients. I own landscape company, also creating private gardens and planting container gardens. (visit my gardening blog! www.gossipfromthesoutherngarden.blog) What you may not know is that Megan’s dog Barney is based on our family’s beagle we had when my son was growing up. He’s in puppy heaven now, probably still stealing pizza.

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Storm voice reveals my love of nature and how mystical I think it can be. The combination of Storms and creatures from folklore along with and an ability to hear what others can’t gives my main character, Mac, a different take on a mystery. Add in an all-knowing cat, and I’m happy.

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Sister Station is written out of my childhood memories of living in upstate NY. My father was a railroad man for years, giving me the inspiration for this series.

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Finally, in my new series I am writing, the main character is a photographer. Now I am not a professional photographer, but I love to take pictures. And I live in an area where there’s more than enough scenery to keep me occupied.

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There are other things woven throughout all of my stories reflect my day-to-day life or something from my past. As you read my stories, you might find more things about me. Things I might not even realize I’m revealing.
It’s almost impossible not to have parts of your life and personality creep into your writing. It’s up to you to decide how much you let the reader see. I believe the more of yourself into your story the more real it will seem to your reader, pulling them deeper into your tale.
Now I’ve shared with you some of my secrets, probably more than you wanted to know. It’s your turn; tell me—what secrets do you share with your readers? 

 

www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

Author- know your Characters!

How well do you know your characters?

Are they close, like a best friend, or are they a vague notion on a piece of paper?

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The characters will determine the intimacy of how much you get to know them. Minor characters are like ships passing in the night, and there may not be a reason to go in depth about what makes them tick. But, for your protagonist and the sidekick it’s essential. Even for the antagonist is essential – almost as much as the protagonist.
Although you can’t put everything  about your characters down on paper, you should know them. Be familiar with them as you are with your family-even better. After all, they are your creation and you need to understand how and why your character reacts to something you are plotting.
Now granted, just like human beings, your characters will change in time as you go from book 1 to book 10. They must, or they will become flat and boring. A perfect example of this is Harry Potter. If the young wizard had stayed the same frighten boy living under the stairs, you would have never read the rest of the series to learn of all the wonderful adventures (and dangers) that he faced while fighting the evil Lord Voldemort.
Expect that your characters will grow, just as you grow as a writer. Knowing your characters inside and out isn’t just knowing they have blond hair and blue eyes, or they have a southern accent.

Knowing your character involves understanding how they react to situations we, the writer, put them into. How will your hero react to criticism or complement? How will your heroine react when faced with danger or romance?
As a writer, I think we have to know ourselves in order to answer these questions about our characters. Be honest; isn’t a part of us in each one of our characters?

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There are always different character profiles and different ways to come up with them.   Some great computer programs are available to  help you  keep track of all the details. Or perhaps a good old-fashioned piece of paper in a notebook. There you can jot down the traits of your character, both physical and physiological.
I’ve found character casting is a lot of fun. This is where you find pictures of people you think would be like your character, not only in looks but in actions. I love to use pictures of actors from old shows I loved. I remember what the actor’s charter was like, and that’s the picture I borrow for my casting.

I’ve seen or used all of these methods. I feel the ones which work best ask questions about your characters, causing you think beyond the obvious. These methods don’t simply have you filling in the blanks about how tall is your character or their eye color. Instead, they asked the questions about what is your characters favorite childhood memory, what is your character afraid of.
See the difference between the two types of questions? Even if you don’t write everything down, I think a good writer needs this information back of her head.   Putting it down on paper just keeps a clear.
So, let me be noisy and ask you this; is your relationship with your character like a first date, where you’re just trying to find out things about them to decide if there will be a second date? Or does it feel as if you’re in a 50-year-old marriage and you can finish each other’s sentences?

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If you’re still in the dating stage, I suggest you ask more questions. You need to know your characters; you might need to reign them in one day when they take your story in a different direction. If you don’t know how they will react, your story will get away from you. When it gets out of your control, then how will you be able to keep the reader interested?
How do you get to know your character? Share your methods with us.

www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

Goodbye?

Yes!  

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Well, I’ve reached my word count for the April 2018 Camp NaNo challenge. As a matter fact, I went over my word count. And that’s a great feeling of satisfaction.
But, along with that satisfaction comes the knowledge I haven’t completely finished the book. There’s still more work to do; I have to come up with my ending.
 For me, the ending is the hardest part. I know what I want my characters to do; I know how the mystery has to end. Often, I might have more than one ending in mind, and I only need to choose which one best fits the directions my characters took me in.
And even though I have this knowledge, I still find the endings are hard. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to say goodbye to my characters. They’ve become such a part of me, as I’ve written these stories. The thought of shutting the doors on their adventures is a little sad.

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But wait — that’s why I write in a series!
 I don’t have to say goodbye to my characters; they can keep having adventures– as long as I can come up with ideas. As a matter-of-fact, some of my ideas are calling for spin-off series with minor characters from the main story. Now they are branching off on their, own seeking their adventures. Isn’t that great? I’m giving myself endless possibilities for new stories. Believe me, I will never in my lifetime be able to write all the outlines I’ve come up with. Mainly because I keep coming up with new ones. But I will have fun trying.

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There’s always the next story sitting on my desk waiting for me. Sometimes I sneak into it to add a line or two of outline, or I might even write the first chapter. Sometimes an idea just grabs hold of you and have to get  it on paper. I may rewrite it later, but the ideas needs to get out of my head, and onto paper. This will free my mind to continue with the work in progress.

Meanwhile, on my desk is my current WIP, waiting for my attention.
Speaking of which, now I need to make a decision. Do I kill somebody in the story ending? Or perhaps a more gentle ending is called for, maybe a romance can work better?
See what I mean?

This is why endings are so hard for me. Because there are so many directions to take them. So, I guess I’m like my reader, I’ll have to wait until I decide which way to finish the story.

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 Or rather, my characters will tell me which way they want to go to find out their ending. 

 

VictoriaLKWilliams.com

Stolen Moments

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I think everybody has a “to do” list.
Some are short, some are long. A few might even be considered part of a bucket list rather than a to do list, but everybody’s got one. You’ve written it down are in the back of your head. We’re all busy; kids, school, work, writing. And there’s only so many hours in a day to get everything accomplished. Often things on today’s list get pushed to tomorrow, because there just wasn’t enough time.
But every occasionally, you find a stolen moment. A moment with nothing on your agenda, a moment when no one is clamoring for your attention and you can breathe.
So, what do you do with that stolen moment? Do you pull out your list and work on something else?
I think that’s what most people do. But here’s a novel concept; take that stolen moment for yourself.

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Grab a cup of coffee and go out and sit in the garden with a book you’ve been longing to read or a blank piece of paper to doodle on. Perhaps you can simply sit back, close your eyes, and do some deep breathing exercises. Not every minute, not every second has to be productive. Sometimes it’s healthier to be inactive.
Once I get over the guilt of having a stolen moment and taking it for myself, I find my mind wanders. I come up with some of the best ideas this way. Things that were in the back of my mind finally work their way forward; getting the attention they need, and yes, deserve
There used to be a time in our society when quiet moments were expected. After a long day’s you work came home, ate dinner, and had a quiet time. It might have been in the company of your family, or maybe sitting by yourself out of the back porch letting your thoughts wander. Personally, I think our minds were more stimulated because of this. We were forced to use our imagination in the days before there was a TV in every room and a phone in every hand. Everything wasn’t programmed for us on the TV or in a game.

Recently I had the opportunity for some stolen moments for myself. My husband was out of town, leaving me on my own with no obligations. It was amazing! The first thing I did? Turn the TV off. It felt weird, the house was too quiet, so I turned onto my old music to listen to. The stress and tension when out the windows.
At first, I just unwound. But then, the quiet moments led to productive thinking moments. A lot of “what-ifs” were tossing around my head about possible story lines. But rather than hurrying up and writing down an outline, I let them develop and nurture inside, without forcing them. By the second day I was ready for an outline. Because I had given the chance for the stories to form  on their own, my outline flowed from my fingers to the keyboard.

 

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Now I’m not saying you should get rid of your husband (because I really did miss him), or family, or leave your job for a week in order to be productive in your writing skills. But, if you let some stolen moments work their magic, you would be surprised at the results.
And here is an original thought: why wait for a stolen moment?
Why not set aside five or ten minutes every day for quiet time? We used to make the kids do it, at least to my house we did. Quiet time was for either book reading, or quiet play. No electronics, no TV. Set aside ten minutes for yourself every day. Develop this habit, and before you begin writing for the day, let your mind wander; almost like you’re exercising your fingers before you sit down to play the piano.

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Not being productive might be the key better production.

http://www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

 

 

Travels

Have you ever wanted to get behind the wheel of your car and just drive?

No destination, no agenda, just drive. Would you head north or southeast or west? Would you stay in your own country or would you crossover one of the borders surrounding us? Do you head north to Canada or south to Mexico? Would you stick the city roads or are you the type to try to back roads of our great country?

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Some people pass through places, not making connections. Perhaps you’ll take your time; stopping at a small diner and getting to know the people. Asking questions about their lives and finding out what their hopes are for their futures can give you not only insight about them, but ideas for stories.

Maybe you drive straight through, stopping only for necessities, to reach your destination Your answers will tell you a lot about your personality: perhaps you’re a driven person, with a goal and agenda. Or are you someone comfortable meandering through life? Neither one of them is wrong. It’s simply who you are.

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For me if I were given an opportunity I would visit the small towns and explore the countryside. It would be a perfect way to find the sights most people won’t find on the cover of a fancy travel magazine. There’s something about driving by a field of cotton or corn feeling in tune with nature, wondering when the crops will be harvested. If I found a park, I’d stop to walk the pathways, find little creeks for skipping stones when the mood takes me, and picking wildflowers as they bloom.

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This sounds idealistic, I know, but wouldn’t this be a wonderful way of life? To sit back and enjoy what God’s given us. No timetables, no time clocks, only the ability to enjoy life and help a person or two along the way.

Of course, it’s only a dream. There are too many responsibilities in our lives; bills to pay, children to raise and preparing for the future. We are sometimes too busy putting away for the future that we forget to enjoy the present, and we never really appreciate the past.

So what if we can only wander the back roads of the country on weekends? We can still enjoy our own immediate environment. I would bet right in your own hometown there are small parks you’ve never visited, views you’ve never pulled off to enjoy. If you drive a little way out of town, I’m sure there are places to find that you’ve never even imagined.

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My challenge to you? Learn to enjoy what you have around you. Get in the car and take a ride, see what’s around your own town. Or better yet; get on your bike or walk, and find what’s in your own neighborhood.

Think of the possible stories you can create from all these new experiences and locations!

http://www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

 

 

Hi-ho, hi-ho, its off to camp we go!

My bags are packed and I’m running away for the month of April!

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Of course this is only in a virtual world. April is the first of the Camp NaNo months and I’m exciting to take part.

The camps are a bit more laid back than NaNoWriMo, with less emphasis on 50,000 words and more on your cabin and new writing friends. This is the time to finish up goals which may not have been completed (guilty!) in November and re-connect with other writers.

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I think this is what I love about the camps-the connection! No one understands your misery more than someone also going through the same process. This is the 4th year I’ve opened a cabin up, and I’m thrilled to see old friends return. This year there are  new writers joining us and I’m looking forward to getting to know them as well.

There is a special bond that forms here, one that will never fade. Encouragement is freely given, helpful ideas are tossed around and constructive criticism is offered if asked for and venting is allowed at any hour of the day or night.

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So, we authors set our goals and aim for our targeted number of words as we juggle or daily tasks, jobs and family. To those around us; have patience it’s only for a month.

At least until July rolls around!

http://www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

Far, Far Away…

Don’t mistake that faraway look in my eyes as boredom.
No, I’m not ignoring you either, and I’m far from falling asleep.

Writer.
Writer.

What I’m doing is plotting. There are ideas all around us and sometimes you must stop and think about how one little item that caught your interest can work into a story. How one little phrase you overheard can be worked into a conversation. Or maybe it’s a news item you saw the night before, that’s been sitting in the back of your mind, wondering how it can create an alternative universe or whole new world and a completely different series.
I would say half of my writing time is spent daydreaming. But not daydreaming in a useless way. These daydreams are a productive thought gathering, plotting exercise. Let’s face it our minds are our biggest tools, probably the only tool we need, other than a writing devise. When we let allow our thought to wander where-ever they want, we can produce some great concepts.
If we don’t use this tool regularly, it will become dull and foggy. We need to sharpen our minds and use it to the fullest potential possible. This might mean thinking of things outside of the realm of your normal everyday expectations. If you don’t use those tools and you allow them to become dull and unproductive, you’re heading down the road to writer’s block, I’m sure of it.

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Fortunately, I have a very active imagination and I love to tell stories; never seeming to run out of ideas. Instead the opposite happens. Too many ideas bounce around in my head, often causing difficulty in concentrating on one story line at a time. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced writer’s block.
I keep my mind sharp and I keep thinking and imagining: creating scenarios out of nothing, forming conversations between characters and asking a lot of “what ifs. A good exercise is to have somebody just toss you a word. See what you can do with it; whether it’s a phrase, an object or an action— weave it into your story. Give your story on a new twist, make your characters do something unexpected. Remember if it holds your interest, it will also hold your readers.

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Find a way of recording those ideas, be a pen and paper or your phone or your computer. Jot them down when you get them and please, don’t tell yourself that you’ll remember. It seems the minute you do this, you’ve already set yourself up to forget them. Honestly, with so many thoughts going to our mind daily just with our everyday actions it’s sometimes impossible to remember what we need to get through the day.
Don’t discard an idea or thought path simple because it doesn’t fit your current work in progress. Jot it down and put it in a file for future work. Keeping a file of ideas is another way to fight writer’s block or adding a twist to your story that will keep it original and interesting.
So, what did you see or hear today that created a “what if idea”?

www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com